Not too long ago I wrote about my email highs and ‘woes’ and have now tried several different email clients to determine the best of the email client choices available.
When I first began working online I invested in Microsoft’s Office Suite so that I’d be able to file share within Word and Excel. Outlook came as part of the package and I began using it right away, once I learned how to set up email accounts. By the way, Outlook Express (the lighter version of the MS email client) is the one that comes on most new computers these days. The more email accounts I acquired, the more I was grateful to Outlook for saving me the trouble of visiting each website to log in to web-based email accounts to read and respond to email.
Unfortunately, convencience often has a price (like the higher price for that gallon of milk at the gas station on your way home). For email cients, the convience of having a program that goes out and collects all of your email from all of your different accounts is security risks. Viruses are often, and all too easily, shared via email clients – coming in attachments that you don’t even know about, much less see.
In reality, the safest way to go is to not use an email client at all. But then you just might spend half the day surfing from mail site to mail site just to get your email. I like to live on the edge, but decided that since Outlook uses Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to display HTML email, making it vulnerable to the same security issues as the browser itself, it might be time for a change. I’d already turned off the preview pane and set up all sorts of spam traps but it just didn’t seem like it would ever be enough.
I’d been using Outlook for so long that I worried I might be set in my ways and should try to convert before it became utterly impossible for this old dog to learn new tricks. So, wanting to get away from the somewhat riskier Outlook (which, by nature of it’s popularity alone, is widely targeted by spammers and hackers just like IE) and venture into setting up and learning a new application that would fulfill all my email needs and yet be comfortable enough to use everyday, I tried the following programs:
I downloaded Eudora 7 to give it a test run but wasn’t immediately won over. It was easy to use, but I ultimately did not like having to decide between the three version choices. I could either keep the freebie light mode (which comes without many of the features that make it attractive); switch to sponsored mode (UGH!) where I’d get more features added (like SpamWatch) but have to look at an “ad window and up to three sponsored toolbar links;” or opt for the paid mode to get all the features, access to one-on-one tech support and 12 months of free upgrades. It’s cost? $49.95.
Eudora’s default browser is IE but you can change the settings at the beginning and you can import your address book and email folders from Outlook (and back again if you choose not to revert back). However, staring at ads isn’t an option for me and I didn’t want to spend the money if I could find something else I liked just as much or better.
I have to admit that The Bat! is quite cool and seems to offer more functions than even I need readily available. I downloaded the free 30-day trial and was instantly impressed by the clean look and handy features. Yep, you get a full featured trial. According to RIT Labs their email client, The Bat!, has been around since 1997 but I don’t remember hearing or reading anything about it until I began searching for email clients to test drive just a few weeks ago.
Once the 30 days is over, you are required to register the software for either home use ($45) or commercial/professional use ($58). I set up one email account for the test drive and while I managed to figure out how to do that, I can’t see my mom having much luck with the initial set up.
In every way it’s a slick email client for an experienced user. While I consider myself a fairly needy email tool person, this goes beyond what I’d need. If you manage email lists with thousands of recipients, this is the perfect tool for you. I like to auto-sort my email as it comes in to help me stay organized. With Outlook, I could set up rules for what was sent where as it came in. The Bat! has a filtering system that not only can sort the email coming and going but can also auto-respond, forward, print and more. Talk about convenient.
Thunderbird is Mozilla’s open-source answer to email; Firefox is their open-source browser. I’ve downloaded Thunderbird and tested out one email account to discover that while Thunderbird was certainly easier to set up (and imports all the pertinent info from Outlook as well) it does not have many of the nifty features present on TheBat!.
For me, it’s enough. It’s a decent transition from Outlook and I like the way it handles setting up multiple accounts. I also discovered some extensions that give me some of the features I liked in TheBat!. Thunderbird doesn’t run scripts automatically and it obviously doesn’t use IE as the default browser to display HTML email.
Given that Thunderbird is free to use and it suits my needs at this point, I chose to stick wtih it as my replacement for Outlook. Once I learn a bit more, get a bit more comfortable with it and add on some interesting extensions I’m sure it will do the trick quite nicely.
Which email client is right for you?
If you’re currently in the market I’d suggest TheBat! for serious email senders who want to maintain lists in addition to collecting their email and for folks who answer a LOT of email with the same exact response.
Everyone else can use Thunderbird and it’s extensions to customize exactly what they need — for free.